Retired U.S. Mint Sculptor-Engraver John Mercanti is to be feted May 17 by Historic
RittenhouseTown with the David Rittenhouse Award for his contributions to
America’s artistic legacy.
A reception and dinner is slated to be held in Mercanti’s honor at
the Merion Cricket Club in Haverford, Pa.
Mercanti’s recognition is part of a year-long celebration by the
U.S. Mint of its 225th anniversary and the anniversary of David
Rittenhouse being named the first U.S. Mint director.
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“The David Rittenhouse Award honors those who demonstrate excellence
as it represents one of the many contributions that Rittenhouse made
to American history,” says Barbara Rittenhouse, president of the board
of directors of Historic RittenhouseTown in Philadelphia. “David
Rittenhouse was an amazing man. In his lifetime, he was an astronomer,
inventor, mathematician, surveyor, and the successor to Benjamin
Franklin as president of the American Philosophical Society. We
reserve this prestigious award for those who have contributed their
talents at the highest level to our nation.”
Previous recipients of the David Rittenhouse Award have included
Derrick Pitts, chief astronomer and planetarium director of the
Franklin Institute in Philadelphia; Keith Thomson, executive officer
of the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia; and Owen
Gingrich, professor emeritus of astronomy and of the history of
science at Harvard University and a senior astronomer emeritus at the
Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass.
40 years in service
Mercanti spent four decades in federal government service, more than
three of them as a member of the U.S. Mint’s engraving staff
headquartered at the Philadelphia Mint. Mercanti is credited with
being the most prolific artist on the U.S. Mint’s engraving staff,
producing more coin and medal designs than any other artist in U.S.
While Mercanti created an extensive body of work, perhaps most
recognized is his Heraldic Eagle reverse that has graced the American
Eagle silver dollar since its introduction in 1986. Mercanti also
contributed the Lady Liberty obverse found on the American Eagle
platinum coin series minted since 1997.
Since retiring from the Mint, Mercanti has designed coins for other
nations, including Australia, whose Perth Mint has struck coins
bearing the artist’s design of a wedge-tailed eagle. He has also
reinterpreted designs by Augustus Saint-Gaudens for a medal.
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A native of Philadelphia, Mercanti received his artistic training
at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Philadelphia College of
Arts and the Fleisher Art Memorial School. Mercanti considers his
closest mentor to have been Frank Gasparro, who served from Feb. 23,
1965, to Jan. 16, 1981, as the 10th presidentially appointed chief
engraver of the United States, succeeding Gilroy Roberts.
When Mercanti retired from the U.S. Mint on Dec. 30, 2010, he, too,
held the title of chief engraver, but it was bestowed upon him in 2009
as senior sculptor-engraver by then U.S. Mint Director Edmund C. Moy;
the presidentially appointed position had disappeared during budget
cutting several years previously.
Historic RittenhouseTown, a National Historic Landmark District in
Philadelphia, is an authentic 18th century early industrial village
and site of British North American’s first paper mill. Six Rittenhouse
structures survive including David Rittenhouse’s birthplace, the 1707
For more information, visit www.rittenhousetown.org online, email the site at
firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone it at 215-438-5711.